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Neutral Zone Wrap: Who's on the rebound?

by | Rotowire.com
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The regular season is here. Hallelujah!

Hope you had a relaxing summer, one where absolutely nothing happened except for the anticipation of meaningful NHL action. OK, so maybe you moved to another country and got married. But even if those events took place in the last few months, then your sights must have remained locked on hockey.

You may have forgotten some material since the Blackhawks shocked the Bruins (and us) in Game 6 of the Cup Final. Hope you have perused the other site resources and articles and feel sufficiently caught up. But if you're craving one more piece to get you going, then you're in luck.

There's always room for improvement. Not only in your leagues but also for actual NHLers who are poised to step up their game. Here are a few hopefuls who may not be getting the most attention or may be maligned for recent indiscretions but could serve as fantasy gold. (NOTE: These individuals could end up depreciating in value but that would depend on uncontrollable factors or how you use them in your lineup. In other words, plan accordingly.)

(For other related examples, be sure to check out Jan Levine's sleepers article.)

Brad Boyes, F, Panthers: Posted very respectable numbers with the Islanders in 2012-13 (35 points in 48 games, including 13 on the power-play) but was probably pushed out due to a forward glut. On a relatively young Panther lineup, Boyes was brought aboard on a tryout basis and has seamlessly fit in on a line with Kris Versteeg and rookie Aleksander Barkov. Don't expect any eye-popping figures; somewhere in the 50-point range will suffice.

Jannik Hansen, F, Canucks: The recipient of a new four-year, $10 million contract will be asked to assume more responsibility. In his five-year career, the Danish winger has excelled as a shorthanded contributor and is slowly working his way as a dependable top-six forward (note the 27 in 47 last year). With Zack Kassian maintaining his penchant for on-ice stupidity, it would seem Hansen is firmly positioned as the second right winger on the Canucks' depth chart and a spot on one of the power-play units.

Jussi Jokinen, F, Penguins: Fine, so Jokinen became an immediate success (11 in 10) after arriving from Carolina in April. But it was presumed the Finn wouldn't be able to repeat this feat skating on the third or fourth unit. In training camp and exhibition action, he has displayed great chemistry with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal (including a hat-trick against Columbus). And it seems that anyone who teams up with that duo should be destined for something better than average. It's funny to think the Canes are still paying a quarter of Jokinen's salary as part of their giveaway sweepstakes.

Ryan Miller, G, Sabres: You might be surprised to see the 2010 Vezina winner listed in this category but Miller belongs here. His stats last season 'slipped' to a 17-17-5 record with a 2.81 GAA, mainly a factor of a fresh Sabres squad that finished last in the Northeast. Some of the media and fan pressure looks like it eventually affected Miller, although he kept his cool and proved to be Buffalo's best player on many nights. Fortunately, there are three factors working in his favor. First off, Miller will undoubtedly want to prove his detractors wrong and step up his game. Secondly, his long-term contract expires next summer and he will want to exhibit his top skills for a new deal. And finally, the starter from Vancouver 2010 will be motivated for Sochi in his bid to reclaim the #1 job for the US squad. (Jonathan Quick appears to be the current frontrunner.)

Sami Salo, D, Lightning: A lot more was expected of Salo after inking a deal with the Bolts before last season. After all, the now-39 year old has always been known for his cannon from the point. And although Tampa finished in the top-half of the league in power-play percentage (13th at 19%), he wasn't a major factor (seven PPPs, 17 overall) and only managed a shot per game (with a paltry two goals). With a season in the Sunshine State under his belt and no Vincent Lecavalier to hinder backline man-advantage opportunities, expect Salo to increase his frequency hitting the net and continue scaring the bejeezus out of opposing goalies.

Honorable mention: Justin Abdelkader, F, Detroit; Josh Bailey, F, NY Islanders; Colin Greening, F, Ottawa; Adam Larsson, D, New Jersey; Tim Thomas, G, Florida

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Player News
Slava Voynov
Voynov's Attorney Hopes Suspension Is Lifted Soon
Slava Voynov, D, LA
6:09 AM
News: Slava Voynov's attorney is hopeful that the indefinite suspension could be lifted soon, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Analysis: Slava Voynov's attorney contends that the criminal case against Voynov has no merit and that the injuries and subsequent investigation were muddied by some language issues on both sides. Voynov figures to miss his first game since the incident when the Kings take on the Sabres on Thursday.

Alexander Wennberg
Jackets' Wennberg Shifts To Center
Alexander Wennberg, C, CLB
5:22 AM
News: Alexander Wennberg will center the Blue Jackets' second line on Thursday, skating between Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: To date the rookie, who has just one assist and a minus-6 rating through five games, had been working on the wing, but Jackets coach Todd Richards is using the club's west coast swing as an opportunity to shake up his forward lines. Hopefully, playing his natural position will light a spark under Alexander Wennberg.

R.J. Umberger
Flyers' Umberger: Two Points In Win
R.J. Umberger, LW, PHI
5:06 AM
News: R.J. Umberger collected a goal, an assist, and five PIM in Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Penguins.
Analysis: It's the 32-year-old's first goal with his original team, and he seems to have settled in nicely. He's averaging just over 15 minutes of ice time, which fantasy owners hope will lead to a return to an 80-plus points season.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Flyers' Bellemare Scores First NHL Goal
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, RW, PHI
5:00 AM
News: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored his first NHL goal in Wednesday's 5-3 win over Pittsburgh.
Analysis: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare took a pretty feed from Sean Couturier and redirected it past Penguins' keeper Marc-Andre Fleury. It's his first point of the season, though his ice time could be limited once center Vincent Lecavalier (foot) returns.

Mark Streit
Flyers' Streit Nets Goal In Win
Mark Streit, D, PHI
4:54 AM
News: Mark Streit scored his second goal of the season in Wednesday's 5-3 win over Pittsburgh.
Analysis: Mark Streit has seven points through seven games, so he's on pace to match his points total from last season. Even better news for owners: two of those seven have come from goals -- Streit hasn't scored over 10 goals since the 2009-2010 campaign.

Corey Perry
Ducks' Perry Gets Tricky Again Wednesday
Corey Perry, RW, ANA
4:37 AM
News: Corey Perry lit up the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday for three goals and his second hat trick of the season in a 4-1 win. He also fired six shots on net and skated to a plus-3.
Analysis: Is this guy money or what? Corey Perry now has eight goals and 10 points in seven games and even though he only has six PIM and two assists, we really don't mind. The guy is a perennial fantasy stud who fills the net and looks well on his way to again being a cornerstone of fantasy rosters this season.

Teddy Purcell
Oilers' Purcell Adds Two Helpers
Teddy Purcell, RW, EDM
4:34 AM
News: Teddy Purcell grabbed two assists in Wednesday's 3-2 victory over the Capitals.
Analysis: His two points came with relatively limited ice time (13:23) and brings the former Lightning's point total to five in seven games this year. If he can find just the right chemistry with one of the Oilers' young stars like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Teddy Purcell could be a sneaky fantasy commodity this season. Just don't count of much by way of plus/minus, if your league counts it.

Braden Holtby
Caps' Holtby Mediocre In Loss Wednesday
Braden Holtby, G, WAS
4:30 AM
News: Braden Holtby managed to stop just 17 of 20 shots in a loss to the Oilers on Wednesday.
Analysis: Braden Holtby was underwhelming against an Oilers team that had just one win heading into the game. He now owns a 2-1-1 record to go with a 2.13 GAA and .917 save percentage and should continue continue to get the bulk of the starts ahead of backup Justin Peters for head coach Barry Trotz.

Ben Scrivens
Oilers' Scrivens Wins Second In A Row
Ben Scrivens, G, EDM
4:25 AM
News: Ben Scrivens thwarted 32 of 34 shots Wednesday in 3-2 win over the visiting Capitals.
Analysis: After failing to record a victory in his first four appearances, Ben Scrivens has turned things around against two very good teams in the Capitals and Lightning, who the Oilers beat Monday. If this isn't just an aberration, Scrivens could provide some much needed stability between the pipes for an inconsistent Oilers squad. We wouldn't jump the gun just yet, but go ahead and keep an eye on Scrivens to see if he and the rest of the boys from Oil Country can parlay their short-term success into something more.

Jarred Tinordi
Canadiens' Tinordi Settling In
Jarred Tinordi, D, MON
4:24 AM
News: Jarred Tinordi has moved ahead of Nathan Beaulieu for the sixth spot on defense, the Montreal Gazette reports. Beaulieu had opened the season in that spot, but Tinordi has played the last five games.
Analysis: His spot as a top-six blue-liner was confirmed Wednesday when the Canadiens sent Beaulieu down to Hamilton of the American Hockey League for some ice time. Jarred Tinordi had a wild and unbridled preseason, something head coach Michel Therrien does not want in young defensemen looking for a roster spot, but he's played with composure and maturity in his most recent stretch.

 
 
 
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